This time of the year is always a good moment to look at the production of schools of architecture in the United Kingdom as many projects are competing to win the yearly RIBA Silver Medal. I will therefore publish few projects which, in my opinion, reach a certain degree of uniqueness as well as an interesting approach in given narratives.
The first one comes from the Bartlett and has been created by Justin Randle. With his California Cooperative, Justin proposes an architectural vision of a fictitious immanent community of production. His almost exclusive use of physical models to represent such architecture is probably not innocent as those relate better to the self-construtivity of the cooperative’s built environment, as he imagines it to be. This example is interesting to study as we usually attribute some authoritarian characteristics inherently contained by architecture of normal spaces of production (assembly line factories, open-space offices etc.). We need therefore to invent rather than plan, an architecture that would liberate itself as much as possible from those characteristics, both in the way that it is been designed and built and in the way it operates.
The following text is Justin’s own introduction to this project:
This project uses a series of complex models to investigate the spatial implications of the cooperative principles of universal admission, democratic organisation, barter, full employment and shared ownership. The proposal is to form a cooperative from the recently unemplyed among the remanaents of the former Haynes generator station on the banks of the San Gabriel River, Los Angeles. Using their skills and the ideas outlined above the cooperative seeks to provide work, shelter and the necessities of life.
Whoever has seen the result of one of the hundreds of urban idea competitions probably noticed the popularity of projects that introduced urban farms that most of the time consist in overlapping fields on floors one by one with at best (or at worst, I guess) a sexy aesthetic (both for the tower and its representation) as a selling strategy. Those projects are clearly in accordance with the elaboration of a new “green” moral enforced by capitalism that is, this way, forgotten to be the cause of what many call the Ecological Crisis. It was not so hard for capitalism to indeed mutate in order to adapt to a new demand from the followers of this new moral.
Nevertheless, some people are smart and honest enough to acknowledge that what makes the “sustainable” quality of a project is not linked to the density of green on the images that represent it. In this spirit, Catrina Stewart develop a City Farmhouse within the frame of the Unit 12 at the Bartlett, tutored by Jonathan Hill, Elizabeth Dow and Matthew Butcher. Her self-sufficient tower consists in an aggregation of mechanical and biological devices that registers in the Bartlett tradition as initiated by Peter Cook when he directed it.
On the contrary of the moralization of ecology I was evoking above, Catrina tackles the problem with great inventiveness and humor and it is a real relief and pleasure to explore all the details of her project. From the toilets that are transformed in machines of human manures for agriculture to the cows whose methane’s farts are being collected directly in an inflatable balloon that they carry on their back via the elevators directly supplied by the power extracted from domesticated eels, the project is full of devices that could appear in a great book by William Heath Robinson (see previous article)
picture: The Battersea Experiment by Dan Tassell
Factory Fifteen is a new video artists/architects collective that can be recognized as the children of Nic Clear as the professor of the Unit 15 at the Bartlett seemed to have generated the passion for this group of the students to make of the architectural video, the main medium of their creation.
Blogs like Dpr-Barcelona, Deconcrete, BLDG BLOG and also The Funambulist itself recently published some of their individual projects but they now formed a collective and are releasing a very interesting film entitled Robots of Brixton. In fact, when the films released within the frame of Unit 15, as aesthetically stunning as they are (see all the pictures on this blog), were remaining videos rather than cinematographic work per say, this last film really attempts to create a narrative and to use the moving pictures not anymore as a sort of painting but rather as a medium that confronts what cinema is about.
Robots of Brixton is a science fictive film that reproduces as a farce what used to be the tragedy of the 1981 Brixton riots in London severely suppress by the London Police.
Factory Fifteen is Jonathan Gales, Paul Nicholls, Dan Tassell, Kibwe Tavares, Chris Lees, Rich Young
See all their films on their common website.
Other articles about the Unit 15 at the Bartlett:
- Royal Cabinets/Re-Formation by Paul Nicholls
- Eco Commune by Richard Hardy (Weareom)
- Synaptic Landscape by Dan Farmer
- Nic Clear’s Bartlett Unit 15. Interview with Ballardian
- MANIFESTO /// Nic Clear
It became almost an habit on the Funambulist to publish projects created within the frame of the Unit 15 at Bartlett. This unit is lead by Nic Clear (see his manifesto) and the concerned project here has been created by the video virtuoso Paul Nicholls.
His project, Royal Cabinets introduces a building of the British Royal Mail that stands like a wart on a Canary Wharf (London) office building. Two ideas of labor are therefore existing in parallel. The capitalist driven one that we experience everywhere in the West, and the accomplishment of public service in a building that recounts its essence by its architecture.
The Royal Cabinets are associated with a film -as it is required in the Unit 15- entitled Royal Re-Formation. I don’t know if Paul has ever watched Zabriskie Point by Michelangelo Antonioni in which the explosion of a house in the desert allows the Italian director to film the luxurious products originally contained in this house while they are in the air.
Paul Nicholls, here, accomplishes the opposite by filming the chaotic Post’s elements of construction and labor in the air that eventually creates the structure of the Cabinets. This process could maybe appear too abstract or even useless but I think that, by allowing us to see the ensemble of pieces composing the Cabinets, he very strongly reinforces the subversiveness of the architecture that seems to be built only by cheap industrial peaces found here or there and assembled as a celebration of emancipated labor.
Here are the two texts written by Paul to introduce his project:
This posts intends to exhibit the beautiful drawings of one regular reader of the Funambulist: Michael Jia who studies at the Bartlett in London. Executed with a surgery precisions, those drawings recall the Micromegas of Daniel Libeskind in the 70′s. Objects are submitted to various influence fields and forces which provide to those drawings a powerful dynamism.
In her very interesting last article on dpr-barcelona entitled On the Border, Ethel Baraona Pohl introduces among others a project that finds its essence in the investigation of the border and more precisely in a resistance against the way the notion of border is being geopolitically considered.
This project is entitled Border Blood Bank and has been designed by Victor Hadjikyriacou within the Unit 5 (tutored by Julia Backhaus & Pedro Font Alba) at the Bartlett School of Architecture.
Border Blood Bank takes scene on the American-Mexican border between two little villages respectively on each side of the “line” which used to have a bridge linking them for communities’ exchanges and that was taken down by the American authorities in 2008.
Victor takes advantage of a loophole in the legislation which remains very loose about the oxymoronal thickness of the line in the air. Thus, he designed two cantilever buildings on each side of the border that flirt with each others and that host a Blood bank useful for the two communities
Eco Commune is a beautiful short movie by Richard Hardy for Nic Clear‘s (see previous posts 1 and 2 and his manifesto for boiteaoutils) studio at the Bartlett. This film introduces a 2050 post-apocalyptic London gained by vegetation and wild animals. The city is eventually re-appropriated by humans but only in a way that consider those hybrids of ruins and nature as the new fabric of their environment.
See also his Transcendent City and its Miyazaki-like graphics.
This very beautiful narrative project depicts an hidden micro city under the Danube’s surface that happen to produce its energy thanks to potatoes’ power.
Here is Pascal’s summary text for New Malacovia:
“Ornament is a crime
” wrote Adolph Loos in 1908. This sentence was opening one century of disdain for architecture’s aesthetic developed by modernism. A hundred years later, a School claims for an embrace of ornament via computation. This approach of architecture is highly debatable since it seems to fully accept the role of the architect as only a embroiderer who would be able to express his creativity in non-essential elements (just like the French law which plans that 1% of every public building’s budget should be dedicated to a piece of art).
However, some people succeeds to design ornaments as fully part of the narration expressed by a project. Computation allows them then to populate a structure with an expressive ornamentation that register the resulting architecture in what we could call neo-baroque. Architecture becomes thus a materialized surrounding narration and computer seems essential to have a global and local control of the project (capitalism not allowing the construction to take as much time as it used to do in the 17th century during the baroque era).
Tobias Klein, former student at the Bartlett and now teaching at the Royal College of Arts, the Architectural Association and one of the founders of an experimental design group called horhizon, is one of this rare people. His two projects, Synthetic Syncretism and Contour Embodiment and the project developed by one of his student, Jordan Hodgson at the RCA are examples of fascinating narrations embodied by their neo-baroque architecture.
This short movie by Dan Farmer
and called Synaptic landscape tries to represent the process of perception and recognition of space by the brain as well as a reconstruction of it as an imaginative procedure. This movie has been produced in the context of Bartlett Unit 15
lead by Nic Clear (previous posts here
) which succeed once again an interesting alchemy of talent…
A film by Peter Kidger, produced for Nic Clear’s Unit 15 course, ‘Crash: Architectures of the Near Future’.
Here is an interview
of Nic Clear by Ballardian Simon Sellars about his Unit 15 in the Bartlett
where movies are being produced to express architecture or urban issues (See this wonderful video by Peter Kidger). Nic Clear called his 2008 studio Crash: Architectures of the Near Future as an homage to James Graham Ballard and the ambiguity he magnificiently describes in his novels.
Morphing Architecture is a project published into Jeong Der-Ho’s book Responsive Volatility. It was a designed by a former Bartlett student, Armando Reyes Vazquez.
projet de Pernilla Ohrstedt pour l’Unit 16 (prof: Simon Herron & Susanne Isa) de la Bartlett l’année dernière
J’ai rencontré Christian Kerrigan il y a un an et demi (grâce à Yorgos Loizos) alors qu’il venait de terminer son diplôme à la Bartlett. Celui-ci partait d’une observation des tuteurs de bonsaï et mettait en scène la construction d’une architecture par le guidage mécanisé de la pousse d’arbres sur un temps total de deux siècles. Ce projet incarne donc un véritable éloge de la patience (!) et une belle hybridation de l’artefact et de la nature.